by Pearl-o

It was kind of embarrassing. The sword was covered with gunk now, all green and squishy and -- well, gross. Lex had seen exactly what had happened, of course, and there wasn't really anything else Clark could have done, but still. It was ... rude, borrowing stuff and then giving it back dirty or broken. Clark's mom wouldn't approve at all.

Lex was watching him still, had been since they'd found the armor and he'd helped dress Clark up for the fight.

"Um," Clark said. "I think -- the sword's sort of..."

Lex said evenly, "I can see that."

Clark looked back over at the dragon. Or what used to be the dragon.

It was sort of gunky now, too.

Behind him, he heard Lex walk a few steps closer. "That was quite impressive, Clark," he said, in the same semi-distant tone.

Clark winced.

There wasn't really anything for Clark to say now, because Lex had seen it all. There had been the too-strong, and the too-fast, and the too-weird, and the too -- too Clark.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

He felt a little bit like he did around the meteors. Like maybe he was going to throw up.


He turned, and Lex was still just watching him. Looking at him extra carefully, as if he might shatter if Lex said the wrong thing.

"Let's go back inside," Lex said slowly, and Clark nodded, and then said,

"Shouldn't we clean up the--" He waved the sword vaguely in the direction of the corpse. Lex followed his gesture.

"You think we should clean up after the giant mutilated mutant lizard lying on my lawn?" Lex had a way of saying things sometimes, repeating them in that tone of voice that suddenly made the most natural things just seem bizarre. Usually it made Clark grin; sometimes it made him cringe. "I don't think it's going anywhere," Lex said.

The armor made little clinking noises as he followed Lex back inside. It wasn't very comfortable, anyway -- too small, and it wasn't meant for this. It wasn't even armor at all, really. It was pretty much there in the castle for show, Lex had said -- because ancestral homes had suits of armor. It was done. Even if they were weird and leaden and really really thin and not very protective, like a Halloween costume or something. "We'll use all the weapons we can gather around us," Lex had said, and he had handed Clark the sword from the war room with this almost scary-intense gleam in his eye.

And Clark had used all his weapons, right, and he'd beaten the dragon, and Lex was still alive -- and that had been a close call, there at the end, and Clark had almost been too late to save Lex from barbeque -- but ... still.

If Lex had just stayed in the castle like Clark asked him to, hidden back in one of the closets or something, everything would be fine. But that was kind of like saying 'if only the sky had turned green' or 'if only the tooth fairy had shown up' or 'if only Clark were normal', because it was one of those things that just would have gone against all the basic laws of the universe.

Lex didn't look back at him, didn't say a word as he strode through the hallways. Clark had been through here plenty of times; all the halls looked the same. The first couple times, even after he was able to see through walls, he'd been able to imagine getting lost in here, making a wrong turn and then another and another, like a giant labyrinth, just stuck wandering forever.

By now, though, the castle was too familiar for that. Clark almost knew it by heart.

Clark watched Lex's head as they walked, the curve of the back of his skull, and chewed on his bottom lip.

He wondered if Lex would buy that there was an important emergency at home, and Clark had to get back quick. Sorry. We'll talk soon, though, okay?

It was possible Lex wouldn't find him if he ran far enough. Possible, but not too likely.

He didn't even look back when they got to the study, just walked straight across the room to the bar and began to pour himself something. Clark stopped in the doorway, feeling awkward and bulky. His helmet almost bumped against the trim at the top of the doorframe when he shifted.

"You know about St. George, don't you, Clark?" Lex said as he poured his drink.

It wasn't really aimed so much at Clark, but he croaked out, "Boy scouts?" anyway.

"Mmhmm," Lex murmured. He stood still, back still to Clark. "The patron saint of Boy Scouts. Along with farmers, knights, chivalry. A few choice diseases." He picked up his drink, and turned a little, so Clark could see his profile as he took a sip. "He came into the country wearing leaden armor, and heard news of the dragon terrorizing the people. He killed it with a single blow, converted the adoring countryside to Christianity, and spread his reward among the poor." Lex smiled a little. "The people of the Middle Ages adored him. Worship, cults."

He turned towards Clark and gestured towards the couch with his glass. "Sit down, Clark."

Clark shifted a little, the armor making more protesting noises. "I can't really--"

Lex lifted his eyebrow. "You can't get out of that yourself?"

And he could, but ... well.

Lex crossed rooms quickly, like he always needed to be wherever he was going now, not a moment to lose, and Clark's breath caught a little when Lex stood in front of him.

He swallowed and closed his eyes as Lex put his drink down on the carpet beside him. He felt Lex uncurl his fingers from around the sword and pull it away.

"Spread your arms," Lex said, and "Step up a minute," and "Turn a little," and Clark did what he asked and tried not to think about it. Lex had touched him like this when they dressed him earlier, but there had been the dragon then; they could hear it outside, then, no time to waste or think about stuff. And there wasn't time to think about it now either, Clark told himself, because Lex was going to ask him questions and want to know things and get angry and hate him and know. That was enough to think about.

"There," said Lex, close enough that Clark could feel his breath against his face. When he opened his eyes, Lex was already a few feet away.

Clark followed him, and when Lex sat down in the armchair, he sat down on the couch across.

"So," said Lex. He sat back and looked at Clark with a neutral expression.

Clark gave him a weak smile. Lex's face didn't change.

"Anything you want to tell me?"

Lex's suit was singed from the dragon. Clark wondered vaguely if the ashes would come out of his furniture.

"Um," he said.

It would have been easier to talk if Lex wasn't looking straight at him like that, if he just had some -- any -- room to breathe.

"Lex, what -- what do you want me to say?" When Clark clenched his hands together tightly enough, his fingernails tried to dig into his skin. They didn't even leave a mark. "You were there just now. I don't..."

Lex tilted his head. He opened his mouth to say something, then stopped.

"You could hit me with a hammer as hard as you can--" Clark said slowly, and he cut himself off and looked away before he could see Lex's face close off a little, just that tiny bit like it always had before. His hands were in his lap, and when he clenched them together tightly enough, his fingernails tried to dig into his skin. They didn't even leave a mark. "But it would probably break the hammer."


Clark blinked, and raised his head. "Okay?"

Lex nodded. His face was probably supposed to be showing a reassuring smile, but Lex really wasn't very good at those. He wasn't made right for them, Clark thought.

"It's okay," Lex repeated as he set his glass down and stood up. "Now. It's been a long day, and I don't know about you, but I could use a shower." He stretched his arms behind his back and rolled his neck around in a slow circle. "You should head home, get some rest. Your mom and dad are probably worried."

"Yeah. I guess." Clark bit his lip. "What about... Outside. There's the lizard still, and then some of the stuff -- It's--"

Lex smiled back at him, almost lazily, as he crossed the room. "I'll take care of it," he murmured. "Don't worry about anything, Clark."

It was almost enough to make him shiver, and he didn't even know why. He didn't know why Lex did anything he did.

There had been a moment that afternoon, where he'd thought he almost knew. Next to the pool table, and they both still had their cues in hand, and everything utterly, perfectly still. Just waiting. And he'd thought maybe...

And then Chloe had called ("Clark, listen, you know those fires that have been popping up around town? Pete and I figured it out: there's this flying meteor-lizard with fire breath...") and it had broken.

Clark fiddled with the hem of his shirt. "But..."

Lex turned in the doorway, resting his hand against the frame. "But what?"

Clark could feel himself blushing as he got up from the couch, and he just stared at the floor till he reached Lex's side at the door.

Lex's face was interested, and open, and sincere.

"I don't know," Clark whispered, and he leaned in to press his lips against Lex's cheek before he could think better of it. "Bye," he said quickly, and he left without looking back.

He ran full speed the whole way home.

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